Friday, February 7, 2014

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

Just about every week over on TSLRF , Ryan will pose the question "What Did you Do To Prepare This Week?"

This is this week's composition for me.

My truck, in the so-apt G.I. German pidgin phrase, is currently upgefucht.
Apparently the flaperators are cattywampus, making driving a No Go event. It took the dealer all week to figure that out, and they cleverly waited until it was too late to rent a car for the day to inform me.

I should mention that a rent check is due NLT tomorrow (today now), and I had no inkling they wouldn't have my shiny toy fixed long since. Live and learn.

So being practical, trying not to chew nails and spit shrapnel, and finding the silver lining, I decided I would use the opportunity to evaluate some of my relocation plans. Because if things go sporty and you need to get out of Dodge, what are Mr. Murphy's odds it will be the day your vehicle craps out?

Part of my belt-and-suspender plan is to use a more urban mountain bike as Plan B, putting it in the back of the truck to use just in case, including if I get more flats or have other breakdowns on the day than I can self-correct.

So looking outside around dinner time as I hung up the phone with the car repair magi, it wasn't the gray indifferent overcast of yesterday. Of course not. It was blowing about 15-20 MPH in what an Irishman would describe as a "soft rain" and what I'd describe as a heavy drool, coming down steadily. Oh goody.

Cold, wet, miserable = good training opportunity.

Now, to be fair, I've spent the last 20+ years walking 6-10 miles a night shift - 20 feet at a time - until the morning. I am middle-aged, there's a bit more of me than there was in my prime, but I'm not a total wreck. So I figured I could do this.

Destination was 16 miles, one way. So 32 miles.

The Good
I made it, there and back.
No chest pain, so I think I can skip my next cardio exam.
In fact, I deliberately took it rather easy, to simulate what it'd be like in terms of speed/distance if there were 40+ pounds of gear going along.
The bike, long neglected and dusty, was a trooper. As best as I recall, it's whatever was on special at Le Boutique Targette  or Le Mart du Walle  fifteen or more years ago. I'd like to say I maintain it like an Indy car, but lying is bad. Nonetheless, it did good service.
Besides work, I've been upping my PT, which paid off, but work has squeezed more of that out than I'm happy with.
It was wet, but all hail Algore, temps stayed in the mid-50s. Nothing like the arctic blizzards numerous of my correspondents and acquaintances are suffering through from Montana to Miami.
The Petzl Tactika Plus on strobe mode with the red cover on the back of one's head makes an excellent  bicyclist "don't hit my ass" warning light, besides being awesomely useful as a headlamp.

The Bad
There is no such thing as rain gear that keeps you dry if you're working outdoors. Not Gore-Tex, ECWCS, Helly Hansen, nor rubberized canvas. If it keeps the moisture out, you get wet with sweat. If it breathes, eventually it lets the moisture in, and not enough of the sweat out. You can shelter outside, or go inside, but if you work outside, you're getting wet, and I don't care who you are or what you have on.
The route was 1/3 uphill heading out, and 2/3 uphill heading back, and into the wind for most of both ways, because the front split on the ridge and blew, literally and metaphorically, in my face over most of the trip.
Wet bike brakes work no better than wet car brakes, especially on a big hill with my fat ass on board.

The Ugly
People drive like @$$holes in the rain.
Too fast, no visibility, and generally HUTA.
When you're in traffic on a bicycle, you notice it a lot more acutely.
Like when people in a quiet residential neighborhood figure that with no headlights coming, they can skip that annoying stopping thing at 4-way stops.
I was almost mown down half a dozen times by people exiting freeways oblivious, blown into landscaping by a semi, and the aforementioned red stop sign optional douche.
Plus any number of folks who figure with anything smaller than a bread truck yielding is optional. And this is with nothing bad happening but a well-blown misting - which is just enough to lift all the grease and oil and make the roads slicker than snot.

After Action Assessment
I have a stationary bike, along with the sort-of mountain real bike. I will be riding both more frequently. (Just not 32 miles in one go.)
The gel seat has issues. It's going to go, and I'm going to replace it with something better suited for my delicate derriere, and for serious pedaling.
I'm not ready for a Hover-Round yet (but I see the attraction). I'm going to look into the gel cell battery electric powered cycle motors. Two sets of batteries would have gotten me there and back, effortlessly and faster (they supposedly do 15MPH for about 15 miles.) With a stop for dinner part way, and another for a snack on the return, I made the trip in around 7 hours, so around 5 miles an hour, into the wind and rain, at a less-than-heart-attack speed. I rode 20-25 of that, and walked the rest. Which was good, in that they use different muscle groups, so it kept me from inducing softball-sized cramps in my thighs, which would have been a catastrophe. I rode more on the way out, and walked more on the way back. The last time I took a decent ruck march with a full pack was on Camp Pendleton, some five presidents ago. As I get my PT back to mil spec, that will change too, in increasing but gradual bites.
I'm also interested in a baby/cargo pod trailer, that'd hold 40-70 pounds of pack/BOB, food and water.
2 quarts of water during the trip was adequate for the weather and exertion. 2 quarts of Gatorade along with the water would have been better.
Forgetting to grab a couple of granola bars was stupid. Thank heavens for mini-marts, Dr. Pepper, and peanut M&Ms.
The weather was kind, so I went in trousers and polo shirt underneath the rain gear. If it had been 10-20 degrees colder, or I'd broken a chain or something, it would have been a reminder that "cotton kills".
Polarfleece hats are the shizznit. Scuba diving gloves are even better.
I'm thinking a thin neoprene shortie board suit, or a full-length one (with some strategic cutouts for ventilation and eliminating chafing) would work better than most commercial rain gear. And provide padding for the times you encounter houses where the people don't prune the trees or trim the hedges.
The bike is going to get a much deserved work-over at the local house of bike geeks.
And some repair items and spares. And a dedicated LED headlight.
It has pouches everywhere, so I'm stocking them with a small but adequate first aid kit, some power and granola bars, and a couple quarts of Gatorade, plus electrolyte tablets.
I need something for stray m-----f------- dogs. I didn't encounter any unpenned, but if I had, especially once I was tired and walking a stretch, I'd have been up a tree or screwed. Bear strength pepper spray would work on two-legged mutts as well.
I planned the route well, avoiding known crappy neighborhoods, and riding mostly through night-deserted industrial zones, and upper class neighborhoods. It would pay to do some route reconnaissance now from here to Camp Snoopy, once I have time and wheels, rather than employ the "hoping really hard" strategy to select the best route(s) on the day when it might not be optional.
Heavily laden, I know I can make 20 miles a day unless people are shooting at folks, in which case all bets are off. Some minimal storage unit caches between point A and Point Z could be a godsend, possibly even giving me a small place to hole up if necessary.

And that's about all I feel like pondering for now. I'm going to take some ibuprofen, and spend some quality time this weekend in the Jacuzzi, and I suspect the place will have a faint odor of BenGay or Tiger Balm for a couple of days. But I have all weekend to recuperate, while I wait for the restoration to me of a functional internal combustion-powered conveyace, a blessing I might have previously overlooked, but for which I will hereafter offer humble thanks, for some good time. Like at least until the pain goes away.

{Random Scientific Observation of Everyday Weirdness: I personally blew out some seven streetlights merely by passing by them, in almost every instance with no other person or vehicle closer than a half mile. Just me. There is no rational explanation known to me why this happens, and it creeped me out the first few thousands of times over the years, but now it's either just my particular super power, or the Force is strong with me. Or else my personal Guardian Angel flies about 17 feet over my head everywhere I go, take your pick. I'm not complaining, but if anyone knows where to trade this Super Power in, I'd have much preferred the power of unassisted flight, command invisibility, or the ability to pick the winning Powerball numbers all the time as one of my first choices. Nobody asked me.  As it is, more than one significant other having witnessed it has referred to it as my rogue Professor Dumbledore gene.}


Anonymous said...

Much prefer your commentary versus movie reviews.

Aesop said...


You're stuck with both for the time being.

More of the other as I have time, but that's been sparser than I would have liked recently.